Tuesday, September 4, 2012

How Do They Cause Bloodshed in Democratic Protest Marches ? An Eye Witness Account From India !

Though Mahatma Gandhi is considered as the father of modern India who won her independence by adopting non-violent peoples' protests against the rulers, his so called Indian followers who inherited the chance to rule the country apparently do not allow their fellow citizens to adopt to such foolish methods of protest any more.

The second or third generation Indian rulers and administrators of independent India might be laughing in their heart of hearts at the foolishness of their predecessors for succumbing to the peaceful and harmless protests of Gandhiji and leaving their controls on the subcontinent.

Had they been in the place of those British rulers and administrators, Gandhiji would have miserably failed in his mission or would have transformed himself from an Ahimsawadi [ believer of non-violence] to a Himsawadi [proponent of violence].

The modern day Indian rulers and their all Indian administrative machinery seem restless and impatient in handling non-violent democratic protests that they seem to be using all efforts that they can to make a peaceful protest into something where blood is shed and transforming the peace loving poor Indians' hearts and brains to burn with hatred to them- their own lucky brothers and sisters whom they have elected to serve as ministers or governors or administrators of their beloved land for a certain period.

Otherwise what is the logic in those police actions against the peaceful protestors following Anna Hazare and his team in Delhi in the recent past ? Did the protestors resort to violence to call for such actions ?

I do not know. I have so far never been to any such sites of protests by fellow Indians for various demands or issues. What I knew was from the news media. But that was till yesterday. Yesterday, I became an eye witness to a peaceful protest march in one part of this nation and the manner in which the law enforcers handled it causing bloodshed on either sides.

My office is in this state capital city and my residence is just a kilometer away in a secured small township owned by our company, which is a 'Maharatna PSU' . All officers like me who stay in this township normally go home during the one hour lunch break.

To save on petrol and to reduce the traffic on road, we have recently adopted a car-pool for our  lunch errand.

Between the office and the residence, there is a stretch of about 300 metres of road that comes under the city corporation where the road has also to cross a busy trunk rail route. To enter our township we have to cross the National Highway 75. Our township has a guarded gate which is common to a famous public school too through which thousands of school children also enter and exit every day. [see the map of the area here !]

This national high way is the main link to all people who want to reach the city's airport and one of the main railway stations. Unfortunately for the law abiding citizens, this part of the road also connects the state's secretariate complex housing the legislative assembly building and the residences of many VIPs including the Chief Minister and the Governor. So this part of the NH is also called the VIP road.

In India, if you are an ordinary citizen living accidentally near to the movement zone of the so-called VIPs, even God may not be in a position to save you from your misfortune ! Because, it is now a routine for the brilliant police administrators to ignore the sentiments of the public for the sake of what they now passionately call 'security'. They routinely stop all vehicular movements in the wide roads for such time as they please for the VIP [ Very Important Person which now means a person in India who holds a position in the government or administration who uses a beacon light on his vehicle as a mark of his status!]   and his/her motorcade to pass. Unfortunately, Gandhiji's successors in modern India who started tasting the glories of democratic power want to become like the British Queen in pomp and show ! Why should we spend our money and time if there is no glamour of the power ? They seem to be asking ! The well decorated kings and queens of the past appeal to them much more than the simple fakir figure of Gandhiji !

So the roads in India are stopped at the sweet will of the administrators small or big at any time for any reason. So please do not consider Google's estimated time of travel if you are on Indian roads !

The modern day administrators of India seem to be pretty arrogant when they deal with the rest of the public citizenry in such situations. They do not bother about the incoveniences caused to the public when all roads are closed for their so called security reasons ! They do not even bother for other kind of responsible citizens for whom time is as important as their own VIP masters !

Me and my colleagues too are public servants, but we are not beacon light VIPs. We used to be like them a few decades ago when no one ever used the beacon lights on their official vehicles. Our vehichles perhaps had a small identification on the number plates showing the organization to which the vehicle belonged. The majority PSU officers now drive their own vehicles for going to office, a transformation that had taken place. On the other hand, those public servants who are directly connected with the central, state or local government departments use a beacon light vehicle. The type of the vehicle and the color of the beacon light are the mark of their position and status. Unlike the past, these kind of government vehicles displaying their authority to the public are a normal sight in modern India. Somehow this rampant display of authority by all Dick and Harry from the government service causes an immediate repulsion in the minds of the rest of the citizens against the ruling party. Often the VIP motorcade consists of all kinds of beacon lighted vehicles of this kind belonging to the lower rung government officers. Though some wise men in the government understand the damage that they create to them by this display of power on the roads, they have some how utterly failed to stop this status mania that has affected the government servants of this era.

Though the PSU officers by definition are public servants, they are no longer government officers who  enjoy any status better than the normal public. Our company may be called a Maharatna, but the meaning of that is not of any worth to the officers and staff of the company. We too are stopped and herded out by ordinary policemen when the beacon light vehicles of the government staff cris-cross the the roads. So we are in a position to understand the heartbeats of the public much better than the beacon lighted government servants who have opted to get themselves isolated from all public who do not have any thing to gain from them.

Now coming back to yesterday's story.

While leaving the office for lunch, we find the road leading to our township packed with vehichles due to a big traffic jam. We knew another route and tried that instead only to be entangled there too in a big traffic jam just on the four lane NH 75. We had initially no idea about the cause, but soon we found that a small procession of people shouting slowly moving ahead. Obviously they are peaceful protestors from the villages, amply led by some party leadership now in the opposition.

The administration knowing fully well about this peace march in advance had decided to stop the protesters from reaching the state assembly building where they perhaps wanted to show off their protest. So, they had constructed road blocks on the high way that is the only way for us to reach our homes and for many others to reach the airport and the railway station.

The police could have easily allowed the traffic of non protestors to move ahead to their destinations. But for reasons known only to them, they did not allow that to happen. They prevented the public movement on the road. At least when our car reached the place it was not the protesters who were blocking the road. It were the police pickets and the police vehicles of all kinds.

There were scores of vehicles of my colleagues who just wanted to reach our homes a few meters away for lunch. But we were stopped and forced to move into an open field by the side of the road between the rail way line.

We took the vehicles as far as we could from the possible melee that could happen on the high way.

The protestors wanted to move ahead to their destination which was some 2 km ahead, but the police would not allow. They would not allow not only the protesters but also all others like us who wanted to elsewhere.

Time was running out and we were on the hot sun on this muddy ground with our cars, hungry and thirsty. The police have started to use their riot control vehichles' water canons though there was no riots by the protesters. Then there was a huge exodus of the villagers towards the place we were standing with our vehicles with no way to go anywhere.

Apparently there was a lathicharge [caning] by the police that the peaceful village folk comprising of men and women made a retreat to our side, the only way they could also move. Then they stood there among us behind our stranded vehicles as they too had no way to move out.

For a moment I remembered Jalianwala Bagh Massacre about which I had studied in my schools. What if the police tried the  other weaponry that they had in their possession now ? They could very well do that if their commanding officer so commanded.

Here we are trapped between the armed police whose numbers matched the number of the poor villagers, armless ofcourse. We saw their political leaders calling them to come back to the road instead of running away to the field where they stood now. But they were reluctant. Life was dear to them just as it was to us !

With me there was my colleague who personally knew the second in command of the state police who thought it fit to call this officer for helping us to get out of this possible one way battle field. Though he could talk to him over phone he communicated his inability to help as he was out of the state. Then there was my boss who held the position of an executive director of our Navaratna PSU who thought of talking to the police officers on the road to help us out. He was not allowed to meet them.

Then all of a sudden we saw a vehicle fitted with loud speakers moving slowly towards the police picket on the highway calling out the people to gather. A few of the villagers began to move towards their leaders from the field. Then all of a sudden the police began to fire tear gas shells towards the place we were standing with our vehicles parked on the raw field, about 150 meters away from the high way. The shells began to explode over our heads, one just a few meters away from me. And there was no place for us to run from there at this age of ours when we are just a couple of years from retirement!

The police fired 16 shells on us and it is only God's grace that none of us got injured or dead so ungracefully ! We just did not understand what prompted the police to act in this manner and do such a thing ! We had to be on this battle field created by the police for nearly 3 hours before we were finally allowed to move out.

Fortunately for us, nothing happened to us and escaped unhurt. But that was not so for a poor villager. He lost his life. He was apparently run over by the riot control vehicle of the police !

The political and the administrative leadership in this country is slowly losing their wisdom and patience. It appears that those qualities are getting replaced  with arrogancy, pride and contempt to fellow citizens.

Forgetting what Gandhiji had taught and demonstrated may not be good for modern India in the long run !

People who do not believe in democratic processes and those helping failure of democracy directly or indirectly by causing alienation of people from the administrative machinery should be doing a good thing if they spend some time to think about the power of non-violence in achieving the best in a society and for their nation !

May God give them the wisdom for that !

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